Gajah Gallery is proud to present Reframing Roots, gathering the works of artists from Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and the United States. As the world grappled with drastic changes and transitions over the past two years, artists were not spared from having to face the fragility of their foundations: the places, communities, and traditions that were once the pillars of their identities.
These artists have directly or subliminally confronted what it means to be rooted, whether turning towards their cultural heritage, the landscapes of their hometowns, or the complicated histories from which they came. Rootedness took shape in diverse ways: for some it meant going back to a concrete place; for others it was forming or reforming tradition; and for some, it meant embracing being in-between two worlds, searching for what it means to belong in the face of dislocation and a growing distance from home.
Erizal As recently returned to his hometown in Padang, West Sumatra, and having become enamoured with Padang’s lush natural environment, has evolved his practice from pure abstraction to vigorous expressionist landscapes.
Other artists similarly wrestle with the beauties and tensions of their roots, but instead of physical places they turn their gaze towards cultures and histories. Paul Nickson’s work reveals how amid anxieties currently plaguing the world, there are those who find solace in spiritual traditions, particularly chants and prayers. His paintings filled with geometric patterns evoke the repetition and order found in these beliefs, yet propose not a fixed, dogmatic vision of faith, but rather, one that is constantly seeking, reaffirming or reforming.
Finally, there are artists who understand that rootedness cannot always be neatly defined; the concept itself may constantly be in flux as they navigate personal or collective histories of migration. Having moved from India to Singapore over a decade ago, Mahalakshmi Kannappan has built the foundations of her artistic career through experimenting with charcoal, allowing its raw shapes and forms to express the uncertainties and contrasting emotions that come with the diasporic experience.
Adam de Boer, a first generation American of Dutch-Indonesian heritage, addresses the dislocation that birthed his American identity and how in order to assimilate, his cultural history and tradition were nearly erased. He has thus spent the past decade rediscovering his Indonesian roots, juxtaposing Javanese craft traditions with the painting techniques he learned in California to capture his inherently complex, hybrid identity.
From reframing pasts, places, to belief systems, the participating artists are envisioning their own definitions of belonging amidst a world beyond their control. Ultimately, their works reveal artists who are deeply connected to the fluidity of their environments – capturing how even amidst overwhelming change and imbalance, they possess the infinite capacity to reroot, evolve and grow.
Adam de Boer (USA/Indonesia)
Ashley Bickerton (USA/Indonesia)
Choong Kam Kow (Malaysia)
Chua Ek Kay (Singapore)
Erizal As (Indonesia)
Handiwirman Saputra (Indonesia)
Herru Yoga (Indonesia)
Kayleigh Goh (Malaysia)
Li Jin (China)
Mahalakshmi Kannappan (Singapore)
Ng Eng Teng (Singapore)
Paul Nickson Atia (Malaysia)
Ridho Rizki (Indonesia)
Rudi Mantofani (Indonesia)
Tawatchai Puntusawasdi (Thailand)
Uji ‘Hahan’ Handoko Eko Saputro (Indonesia)
Wei Ligang (China)